Drug Summit



About this Item
SpeakersGallacher The Hon Michael; Cohen The Hon Ian; Nile Reverend The Hon Fred; Jones The Hon Richard
BusinessBusiness of the House

DRUG SUMMIT

Debate resumed from an earlier hour.

The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER (Leader of the Opposition) [3.12 p.m.]: I am pleased to lead on behalf of the Opposition in this Drug Summit debate. I endorse the congratulatory comments of the Leader of the Government and the Hon. R. S. L. Jones about the Minister of State’s maiden speech and the interesting way in which he examined a number of events in history. While he spoke about catastrophes and how to avoid them, I wondered whether, prior to any future election campaign, the coalition would be better off going to an astronomer rather than to pollsters, to help avoid some of the catastrophes that befell us in recent times. I would have loved to have had that information on 26 March because it would have made things much easier!

The Opposition is pleased to support the motion to hold the Drug Summit. Some might argue that the summit is 10 years too late. In some cases that is probably right because many lives have been lost. Many people have fallen into the drug culture malaise in that time and might not be able to extricate themselves. However, the Drug Summit will represent a significant start in our approach to this problem. Accepting that people have fallen between the cracks in the system in the past 10 years, an important and significant outcome of the summit would be to embark upon saving quite a number of lives in future. We cannot lose sight of what has happened in the past, but we must look forward to what can be achieved.

The Opposition is clearly united in its approach to the summit. It is not a matter of politicians espousing knowledge and expertise, however limited or important they believe it is. The summit is about listening and learning from those at the front line about the drug problem in this State and country. We will hear from health workers, local community representatives and, most importantly, family members who have experienced first hand the problems and pain associated with drug use, either by themselves or, more likely, by family members who unfortunately have died. It is significant that each of us brings to the Chamber our life experiences. We do not always necessarily agree, but the beauty of representational democracy is that differing views can be brought together to hopefully strike a balance.

Nowhere is that more evident in this Chamber than in relation to some social issues, particularly drugs. A number of members in this Chamber will have diametrically opposite views, but the summit will give us an opportunity to test our thoughts and consider the views of others. We all like to think we are right and that we know best. Perhaps members opposite will follow the lead of the Opposition in its approach to the summit, which is to go into it with an open mind and the clear aim to listen to the views of others and to learn from them. In that way we can balance our life experiences with what we learn from the summit in the best interests of the people of New South Wales.

The community wants drug dependence and associated costs such as crime and escalating health
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costs addressed now. In the last 12 months this problem has been foremost in the minds of many people, whether it be from what they read in the papers, what they see on television or, unfortunately, what they experience first hand from losing a family member to drug use or as the victim of a crime committed to obtain money for drugs. We cannot ignore that there remains widespread confusion in our community about the best answer to the drug menace.

I reiterate that we all have a view on this topic, and that we believe that what we say in this Chamber is the best for ourselves and for our respective parties; but the community has differing views. It is important that during the Drug Summit the opportunity is given for all of those differing views to be heard and for information to be gleaned and used constructively. It is no use members switching off during the course of the summit because they have preconceived ideas. The Coalition has discussed its approach to the Drug Summit and its members will come to the summit with open minds, keen to learn from others and to put those views into practice in this Chamber.

As the Special Minister of State, and Assistant Treasurer said in his maiden speech, it is beholden upon this Parliament to ensure that stakeholders play a role in the summit, but that the Parliament, in its decisions over the ensuing month and years, however long it takes, moves towards empowering the community to take some control of the problem. There is confusion in the community because many people have not given the issue a lot of thought. These days most parents who have children approaching teenage years, what I call the danger years, will give the issue considerable thought.

I am fortunate because my eldest child is not yet nine. However, I know from what I saw in my previous occupation outside this place that it is not a far jump from nine to 12 or 13 years of age. I have seen 12- and 13-year-olds using considerable amounts of heroin and funding it by prostitution and the like. We need to ensure that the whole community is fully cognisant of its responsibility to ensure that the issue is discussed and not simply swept under the carpet. No doubt many families elect to deal with the issue that way, and I am not saying that they are right or wrong. If people start talking about the issue and being honest with themselves and their children, and if we encourage debate in family households, we may be able to give a degree of empowerment back to the community.

At present people are looking to the Parliament to provide the answers. As the Special Minister of State, and Assistant Treasurer said in his maiden speech, we need to reverse the roles. In fact, we should simply assist in empowering the community with the necessary tools and mechanisms to bring about effective change. The Opposition is concerned about the list of speakers at the Drug Summit. It is unfortunate that the Government has missed a golden opportunity to hear from people on the front line. I am not talking about health workers; I am talking about former and current addicts, who should have been given an opportunity to participate in the debate.

The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: Absolutely!

The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER: At the end of the day many of us will fall into the role of what I call theorists. We all have life experiences behind us and we will be in the position of saying that this and that should not have happened. However, I believe we would learn much more from hearing people talk about how they fell into the trap of drug addiction and what it has cost them personally. The visits next Wednesday will be an excellent opportunity for members to refresh their minds, if they have not done so recently, about the problem and what needs to be looked at. I have chosen to visit the naltrexone unit. The Hon. R. S. L. Jones agrees that it is unfortunate that we will not be hearing from current, or indeed former, users of prohibited drugs or drug addicts.

I look forward to visiting the naltrexone unit and hearing first hand what recovery progress people are making. I have already received information from people at the unit as to what assistance they believe we should be providing. I am more interested in hearing first hand from those people, rather than from health workers who are well meaning but who may want to push the debate in a particular direction. It will be to our advantage to get a balanced view and to hear from people who are not happy with the programs provided in the past, about why the system failed them and why they sought other systems or, even worse, dropped out altogether and accepted the inevitability that they would continue to be addicted to the drugs lifestyle. It would be a bonus for us as a collective group to hear from those people first hand.

I reiterate the Opposition’s support for the Drug Summit. The objective is worthwhile. I have had lengthy experience dealing with drug users over many years. It was extremely frustrating to deal with people who did not want to get out of that lifestyle. It was a more frustrating and heart-rending experience to deal with people who wanted to get out but did not know where to turn because at times
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there did not appear to be a good working relationship between the various government departments involved.

These people were forever stopped by stumbling blocks. When they looked for assistance to solve their problems the last thing they wanted was to confront a bureaucracy that was simply too slow to act and caused them to slip back into that lifestyle. People will ask questions and expect us to provide the answers. Interestingly, I believe that the answers lie in the community, not in the Parliament. Our role is to listen to proposals and to ensure that what is put forward is in the best interests of the people of New South Wales. That will ensure that we save lives today and in the future.

The Hon. I. COHEN [3.26 p.m.]: The Greens strongly support in principle the Drug Summit. However, we are concerned that the draft agenda and the list of speakers circulated by the Government some days ago does not include key professionals, regional representatives and, in particular, user representatives. The Greens hope that it is not too late for those organising the summit - primarily those in the Premier’s Office - to make adjustments to make the summit much more representative. The community and those involved in the terrible cycle of drug-taking should be given fair and adequate representation.

Having been involved in the inquiry into safe injecting rooms, I am concerned about the lack of assessment of the European experience. I congratulate the Hon. Janelle Saffin on chairing a summit in Lismore on the north coast last week. I attended that summit, at which a former member of this House who is still active on these issues, Ann Symonds, was the keynote speaker. The summit was an opportunity for people of the north coast to voice their concerns, which will be presented to the Drug Summit next week by the various members of Parliament who were present in Lismore. Not only universal concerns but also concerns relating specifically to communities on the north coast were aired at the summit in Lismore. Nimbin is another example of a community that had a significant amount to say about drugs.

The people of that community were able to air their concerns at the Lismore summit, and I will be comfortable representing the concerns of the communities on the north coast at the drugs summit next week. Interestingly, in a number of press releases Mr Michael Balderstone, whom I would describe as an elder of the Nimbin community - he has been involved in marijuana legislation issues for many years - said that cannabis prohibition and the linkage to cheaper heroin, and the ease of obtaining chemicals and powders was much more life threatening. I hope that those concerns are adequately ventilated at the drugs summit next week.

Discussion will be necessary on the different impacts of hydroponics and other drugs, whether they be cannabis or other more dangerous and addictive drugs - particularly those administered by injection directly into the bloodstream - because it is dangerous to lump them all together. Eighteen months ago the Government promised in the budget to provide a detoxification centre for Lismore.

The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: It has been promised in the last two budgets, actually.

The Hon. I. COHEN: I stand corrected by the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti. I referred to that centre during last year’s budget discussion, and 18 months down the track the approval for the original site has just been mooted. I wonder how much of the budget allocation that was set aside for the detoxification centre, which is desperately needed in the north of New South Wales, has been wasted on toing and froing about the location of the site. In northern New South Wales the community understands the relevance of the detoxification centre and the siting of it, but quite some time has been taken for the various departments to match the wisdom shown by the local community.

I hope that the recent courageous step taken by the Wayside Chapel will open up debate and keep all politicians and community members on their toes and convince them to acknowledge that drug abuse is not a single issue. The problems and intricacies of hard drug addiction are as complex as human psychology itself. I am somewhat heartened that matters have been laid down for discussion as to the reasons for drug abuse, be it sexual abuse, mental illness, depression, or fragmenting families. Those issues should be examined so that intense questioning can take place and hopefully some solutions can be found to this terrible problem. I firmly believe that the United States driven war on drugs is very much a war on people, particularly young people. Graeme Dunstan, another person involved in the Nimbin Hemp Embassy, said:
      It has escalated drug abuse, bred crime, corrupted our police, killed thousands of people, created fear and suspicion amongst neighbours, torn apart families and left a great swathe of suffering and grief in communities all around the world.

I hope that after an intense and interesting week, we can look with compassion at drug law reform.

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Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [3.33 p.m.]: The Christian Democratic Party is pleased to commend the Premier, the Hon. Bob Carr, for his initiative in sponsoring the Drug Summit, which will commence next Monday. It will hold its plenary sessions in the Legislative Council Chamber and working groups will convene in various meeting rooms. I also congratulate the Hon. John Della Bosca on his maiden speech, which revealed a thoughtful personality and a person who has gained a great deal of wisdom from his experiences. I particularly took note of his helpful statements with regard to the Drug Summit when he expressed the need for some caution in accepting without question the statements or recommendations of so-called experts, particularly drug experts.

Many drug experts have been involved with this serious social problem - the drug epidemic - but not much progress has been made. Perhaps the Minister’s suggestion that drug experts should be given a dose of common sense is applicable in this debate. I always regard commonsense as a form of godly sense, believing in the existence of an Almighty God who guides our conscience. If we are open to that guidance, as God is the creator he knows what is best for his creation and we should leave ourselves open to accepting the supernatural wisdom we need to deal with this serious problem. Many people despair of finding solutions but we must not. However, we may have to go beyond our own resources and seek God’s help.

The Premier has given leadership by calling the Drug Summit and bringing together not only drug experts but a range of community representatives, and that is important. I was particularly pleased that Major Brian Watters from the Salvation Army has been invited to participate. He is also the Chairman of the National Drug Council. Other people asked to attend include Angela Wood, whom most honourable members would know from previous publicity, and who is now involved with the organisation Drug Watch. I am pleased that other community and parent groups such as PRYDE will be participating.

The aims of the Drug Summit as outlined in the motion cover a wide range of areas but I do not wish to comment on all of them because that would extend this debate. However, it is important to note one or two of them. The first aim is to create a better understanding by members of Parliament and the community of the causes, nature and extent of the illicit drug problem, particularly in New South Wales. That is a valuable objective and will be achieved because of the way in which the Drug Summit has been constructed. Obviously a great deal of time has been spent in organising the summit by staff in the Premier’s Office.

I have been involved with a multitude of conferences and other activities over the years and I know the amount of work that is required to be done behind the scenes to bring about a successful forum such as the Drug Summit. I commend those staff for their hard work as exemplified by the documents honourable members have already received. There has been great attention to detail to ensure that the summit will be productive. It is not just a speakfest but has been planned so that as many issues as possible can be covered in one week.

Another objective we particularly commend is the consideration of the effectiveness of the existing New South Wales laws, policies, programs and services. They obviously need evaluation. Often programs which should be constantly evaluated have been introduced without adequate evaluation. Some years ago during debate on the life education programs and in estimates committees I queried the tabling of evaluations of the life education program. I was not against the program but I would like to learn what has happened to those primary school children five years down the track, and ascertain whether any of them have been involved in drugs.

I was surprised that there has been no evaluation to assess in the long term whether the education approach was successful. Life education programs may have a positive effect, but a small percentage of those primary schoolchildren may still have become involved with drugs in their teenage years. I am concerned with both illegal and legal drugs, and the Christian Democratic Party is one of the few parties that is consistent in its policy approach and is doing all that it can to reduce the damage caused by legal drugs such as alcohol and nicotine.

Our commitment has been demonstrated by the introduction and successful passage through this House of a bill dealing with tobacco advertising. The bill related to the regulation of smoking in public places and we propose other measures to deal with the advertisement of alcoholic beverages. I know the some members of this House do not regard those issues as seriously as I and not want to have such restrictions. We are also strongly committed to combating illegal drugs. We are consistent but puzzled by the fact that some parties in this House support the attack legal drugs but are almost silent on illegal drugs.

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The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: And vice versa.

Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: No. I said we are very outspoken on both types of drugs. In the short time available before the Drug Summit I hope that efforts will be made to produce an assessment of previous programs, such as the achievements of the methadone program in the short term and the long term, and naltrexone. Naltrexone is almost a miracle drug. A frustrating element of heroin addiction is that previously "cold turkey" withdrawal was all that could be proposed and many drug addicts went through agony - although some addicts could cease using the drug without such a serious reaction.

For some the addiction created such a demand in their body that a tremendous amount of self-will to stop taking heroin was required. Naltrexone is available to remove the addiction and I hope a lot of material will be available about it. I have nominated to visit the government-sponsored naltrexone centres. I do not think any private centres were included on the list. Some aspects of their programs may be different to the government programs and a visit to those private detoxification centres would be useful to the visiting teams.

The final objective on the list to which I want to refer relates to building a political and community consensus about future directions in drug policy. That is a major problem dealing with drugs. The Special Minister of State summed up the problem very simply when he said that the two positions were a harm minimisation policy on one side and a zero tolerance policy on the other. There seems to be no position in between. In other words people are now developing fixed positions. The community is divided between the two views, from the heads of the Health Department down to the grassroots in this State, in other States, in the United States of America, in the United Kingdom and in other places. The Federal Government is divided as well.

With that strong division how on earth does one expect to have a successful program against the drug epidemic? It could be argued that the Prime Minister, Mr Howard, is trying to implement a zero tolerance policy which may not be agreed to by Health Department officials. It is not the case of a zero tolerance policy failing; the policy has not been implemented genuinely. Another person could introduce a harm minimisation policy similar to that introduced in 1985 by the Federal Labor Government, but some may not agree with that. Even though I have strong reservations about that approach, it may not have worked in the way in which it was intended.

The Drug Summit will be a great challenge. I will wait to see if we can bring together political and community consensus in one week. Unless that consensus is reached the drug epidemic cannot be beaten. As the Special Minister of State suggested, we must be prepared to listen to one another, to conservative members of the Opposition and to the Greens who may not agree with anything that is said. I am not suggesting the Greens have the solutions but I suggest that we should listen to one another. The Greens and the Australian Democrats also have to listen to other views presented and not close their minds to anything that is said by the National Party or to Mr Howard’s point of view of zero tolerance.

If minds are closed there is the danger of no consensus. The challenge for all of us is to listen. I have been pleased to note some of the community mobilisation that is occurring. Everyone realises that the drug epidemic is one of the most serious problems facing Australia. A few weeks ago in Tamworth I was a guest at a meeting to deal with the drug problem. That meeting, entitled "Australian Cities Against Drugs", was mainly for the mayors of cities and towns in New South Wales. Thirty mayors were present and said that they would join in a campaign against drugs in society and they signed a resolution to that effect. I understand that similar groups of mayors of cities and towns throughout Australia are working together in the same manner. That grassroots involvement at the local government level is very important and I am pleased that that is happening.

The issue for us now is to ensure that the best possible policies are developed, studied and evaluated. There is no easy solution or shorthand method. The saying is that fools rush in where angels fear to tread. It is important that, when resolutions are being formulated at the end of the Drug Summit, we do not make decisions that will multiply the problems facing our community. The problem will not be solved by setting up and trying something to see how it works. We need to be careful.

The Hon. I. Cohen referred to the lack of European material and I assume he was referring to the situation in Switzerland. Material that has come to light in the past few weeks indicates that the Swiss experience has not been properly evaluated and a lot of the information has been distorted. I am not suggesting that people who are critical of Switzerland just do not like the policies that have been tried there. From a scientific point of view the so-called evaluations were not conducted in the normal scientific manner. Those results have now
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been challenged in the United Kingdom and in the United States of America and by the highest authorities in the United Nations who are concerned with health and drugs.

Evaluation is so important and honourable members need to make certain that what we are told has come from very creditable evaluated programs before we trial a program that has not succeeded previously. We should not experiment on our youth with a questionable program, such as the so-called heroin drug trial. Some people have asked why am I am opposed to or concerned about it if it is only a trial.

To those honourable members who think the solution is to trial the supply of heroin to addicts for only 12 months, I say that it would be a brave politician who decided to stop the trial. If that sort of program starts, it will never stop, so we must ask ourselves whether we want to go down that path. If it starts, it will never stop, because no politician will be brave enough to say to addicts, "We are going to turn off the tap because we have decided that is not the way to go." I could recount instances of politicians disappointing me. In debates with me, and in response to questions and representations and deputations, politicians have said, "We will do this when we are in government," and so on. But, after a so-called serious evaluation, they will not move in the promised direction.

A so-called heroin trial will be a heroin distribution system without the trial. To me, such a proposal should be studied carefully before we move in that direction. Some honourable members would know that I have been active in regard to the Wayside Chapel situation. This week I was interviewed by an ABC reporter, and I assume that that interview will be broadcast at some stage. I was shocked that the young lady interviewing me started off aggressively by saying, "Reverend Fred Nile, as a Uniting Church minister, why did you lead a police raid on the Uniting Church Wayside Chapel?" I never led any police raid on anything.

However, I thought it important, if police could not act regarding the Wayside Chapel injecting room or shooting gallery, that a complaint should be made so that police could carry out their legitimate duties if they felt there was a barrier to doing that. I simply did my duty as a citizen and member of Parliament in asking police to act on my complaint. I repeat, I did not lead a police raid. With those few remarks, I commend the Premier and I congratulate the Special Minister of State, and Assistant Treasurer on his inaugural speech.

The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [3.51 p.m.]: Honourable members may not be aware that as we debate this motion people in the Wayside Chapel are being arrested. A police raid is taking place right now. The most hopeful trial to save people’s lives is now being aborted. Maybe that is why the issue is not on our itinerary for next week. I will be visiting the Wayside Chapel just to check out what is happening. The Hon. Ann Symonds is there, bravely trying to do what she has believed in for many years, trying to save young lives. One thinks that there are some members of Parliament who would prefer that young persons died alone in the gutters of the Cross rather than allow them to service their needs, while they have the habit, in a clean place where they can be revived if necessary, and not left to die in a gutter somewhere. I just wonder how heartless some people are.

Justice Wood was correct in saying we need to look at opening up what are called T-rooms and safe injecting rooms for young people in particular, but also for our not so young people, so that we can try to save lives. It is ironic that the Government allows them to have needles with which to inject themselves but does not allow them a place in which to use those needles. It is inconsistent that these people are allowed clean needles so that they will not contract AIDS, hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, yet they are not allowed a place in which to inject safely. I am not supporting the use of heroin, honourable members should understand; I am saying that while people are using heroin, and while they are addicted, they should be allowed to use the substance safely. This Government should be more cognisant of this fact and do what Justice Wood said - open up these places.

The Hon. D. F. Moppett: You do not know what they are injecting.

The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I hope they know what they are injecting. But that is not what these rooms are about. They are not for the purpose of testing what people are injecting. If they overdose, as the Premier’s brother did, at least there is the chance to bring them around straightaway, rather than have them left in a gutter somewhere for three hours or more. Anna Woods should never have died. She was left for eight or nine hours suffering from the intake of too much water after taking Ecstasy. If she had known what Ecstasy did, and that she should not drink too much water, she would be alive today. But no-one told her. This little 14-year-old girl was on our streets at 11 o’clock at night without any knowledge of the effects of Ecstasy. Her parents did not know she was using Ecstasy.

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The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti is interjecting. What happens in Holland and Europe is that at rave parties young people are told to be careful. The quality of the Ecstasy is even tested for them. The organisers do not condone its use; they make sure that young people who might take Ecstasy do not drink too much, or that they are brought around quickly, so that they might live, not die unnecessarily as Anna Woods did. I concur with the Leader of the Opposition in noting that very few of the people invited to the Drug Summit have first-hand knowledge of drug use. I am one of the few people invited who have first-hand knowledge of drug use, so I will be able to speak with some authority on particular drug use, as would some other members. Piers Akerman would be able to do the same thing on many drugs; he would be able to talk with some authority as well, because he is known to have used cocaine, LSD and marijuana. He should be invited to discuss his own drug use.

Recently Swiss and Dutch experts, at the invitation of David Barr, gave a presentation in the Parliamentary Theatrette. Only five members of Parliament attended. Four of those were from the upper House. The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti was there, and he asked many interesting questions. They showed us that it is not just Switzerland that has safe injecting rooms and heroin trials; most European countries either have introduced or are about to introduce heroin trials and have introduced or are about to introduce safe injecting rooms. Already, they are saving large numbers of lives.

Those who look at the Dutch statistics find that the number of addicts in Holland is not increasing. Every year, the average age of the addicts increases. The average age of an addict in Holland is now 39 years, and it is increasing by one year every year. That means that new drug users are not being recruited. I asked the experts, "How is this so? When many young people are using heroin in New South Wales, how come young people in Holland are not using it?" One expert said, "Because of the publicity about and information given on heroin use."

The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: The statistics do not take into account immigrants or tourists, do they?

The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: No. We are talking about Dutch nationals. The immigrants have gone back to Germany and France because those countries now have safe injecting rooms.

The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: What about the ones on the islands?

The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: The honourable member can talk about that if he chooses to speak in the debate. I hope he does. The point that the experts made was that young people were not taking up use of heroin because in Holland heroin had a loser image attached to it. That negative image and anti-selling initiatives had influenced young people against trying that drug. Very few young Dutch, even though the drug is readily available in Holland, as it is in Sydney and every other city on earth, were turning to heroin because the young people did not want to be losers. We have in New South Wales young people who still think it is glamorous to use heroin. That faulty thinking is due to a failure of the Department of Health and governments to convey to young people that only losers use heroin. The authorities should show these young people the ghastly images of people with track marks up their arms.

The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: What about marijuana?

The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: That is not a loser’s image, is it? Forty per cent of people in New South Wales use or have used marijuana. Do you think they are all losers?

The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: Yes.

The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Including some members of this House? I do not think so. We are talking about heroin, a drug that is highly addictive.

The Hon. D. J. Gay: Point of order: The honourable member said that 40 per cent of the New South Wales population, including a large number of members of this House, have used marijuana.

The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I did not say "a large number"; I said "some".

The Hon. D. J. Gay: The honourable member can speak for himself. If other honourable members wish to indicate that they have smoked marijuana, they can. I certainly have not smoked marijuana. I regret the fact that the honourable member implied that other members do. Must we now prove our innocence because the honourable member chooses to use this House to cast aspersions on our reputations, as he just did with Piers Akerman, who cannot respond to what is said in this House?

The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: To the point of order: I said "some members". It is unquestionably true that some members of this House in fact have used marijuana. I know that National Party members would not use marijuana because their official policy
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is one year’s gaol for one joint. You would not get a National Party member smoking marijuana.

The PRESIDENT: Order! Standing Order No. 81 relates to imputations against members. The Hon. R. S. L. Jones did not refer to all members of the House. There is no point of order.

The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Members can say whether they have or have not. It is up to them, really.

The Hon. D. J. Gay: No, it is not.

The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: The Leader of the Opposition never has, but he has seen the terrible results of heroin use. He has seen the dead bodies of heroin users on our streets and knows what he is talking about when it comes to the heroin trade.

The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: Point of order: The Hon. R. S. L. Jones is canvassing the ruling of the Chair and should be directed to desist.

The PRESIDENT: Order! The Hon. R. S. L. Jones may continue.

The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I think some of these people should use marijuana; it might help their thought processes a little bit. The drug war in the United States, as we have learned from a number of recent articles and from people who have been over there to see for themselves, has been lost, with one million African Americans in gaol, mostly through drug use, and 400,000 Mexican Americans in their gaols. There are more African Americans in gaol than at university.

The Americans are gaoling their people more than any other nation and yet heroin, cocaine and marijuana are more readily available, cheaper and purer than ever before in the United States. The drug war has been a total failure there as it is here; we must change tack and find some way of dealing with it so that our young people do not get onto these drugs, particularly heroin. So many people become so desperate that they take up prostitution or start robbing peoples’ houses - like mine, for example. Clearly the zero tolerance drug war has been a complete failure. This year in America $17 billion has been spent and almost all of that will be wasted money. Harm minimisation at least gives young people and those addicted a chance to maintain their health until they get off the drugs. Most people eventually do get off drugs, or die. Some see the futility of their ways when they reach rock bottom.

Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted.